Can Cats Drink Soy Milk?

Can Cats Drink Soy Milk?

Cat people love to spoil their pets with treats. That’s what kitties are here for, right? But cats shouldn’t eat certain "people" food, no matter how much the little beggars want it. Some food is outright toxic for cats while other items simply aren’t good for them. Milk falls into the latter category.

Click here, for a list of foods that are toxic for cats

Unfortunately, cats’ digestive systems don’t tolerate dairy foods well in general, which can lead to vomiting and diarrhea, notes the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

But cats love milk so you may be tempted to try giving your cat soy milk instead. Should you? 

According to the website “Can I Give My Cat …?”, the answer is: It depends. If you never give your cat any kind of junk food, then don’t give your cat soy milk, the website explains. “But if you are a little bit more relaxed and don’t mind giving treats as long as [it] is in moderation, then it’s all right to give it to them,” says the website, emphasizing that soy milk should be only an occasional treat. 

Are Cats Lactose Intolerant?

Soy in and of itself is not known to be harmful to cats, explains Dr. Amy Farcas, a clinical nutritionist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital in Philadelphia. But soy milk products are sweetened, usually with cane syrup. Cane syrup, table sugar, corn syrup, and other natural sweeteners contain fructose, a sugar which cats can’t digest, she says. 

“As cats grow, and are weaned from their mother, they lose the ability to make lactase, the enzyme that digests milk sugar, just like a lactose intolerant person,” notes Dr. Farcas. Undigested lactose disrupts normal bacteria in the intestinal tract and can cause diarrhea, she says. 

Cat owners should focus on feeding their pet a complete and balanced diet because the addition of too many calories from sources other than a diet formulated for that pet’s life stage can cause problems, according to Dr. Farcas. Since cats are small animals, and don’t need to eat much compared to a human, it’s easy to over-estimate how much is appropriate to feed a cat, she points out.  

If you have questions about what and how much to feed your cat, always check with your veterinarian first, Dr. Farcas adds. 

So where did we get the idea that adult cats drink milk? Dr. Farcas says she isn’t sure. “Other than during nursing, milk is not a part of the ‘evolutionary diet’ of the cat,” she notes. 

But to be clear, feeding kittens cow’s milk isn't a good idea either. “Every species makes milk that’s different in composition – the amounts of calories, protein, fat, and lactose are different in cat’s milk and cow’s milk, so feeding a kitten milk from another species can be problematic too,” Dr. Farcas explains. 

Does your cat crave milk, soy or otherwise? How do you handle it?

Image: Ryan Wick / via Flickr